FILM REVIEW: Morris: A Life with Bells On
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Mockumentary maestros like Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest and Michael McKean have taken aim at 70s glam rock (This is Spinal Tap), dog shows (Best in Show) and country music (A Mighty Wind) over the years. It’s from this spoof tradition that quirky British film, Morris: A Life with Bells On emerges, giving a parodic hug to that very English of pastimes, Morris dancing. It charts the rise, fall and rise again of expert Morris dancer, Derecq Twist, whose handkerchief-waving and stick banging with a champion Morris group in Dorset is being documented by a film crew. He is training to perform the prestigious ‘Three Pole Hammer Damzen’, a dangerous, three and a half hour endurance test akin to Blades of Glory’s ‘Iron Lotus’ – but perhaps without such a threat of decapitation. But Derecq is part of a New Wave in Morris, introducing modern influences to the art. This ruffles the feathers of the Morris dancing establishment, particularly Quentin Neely (a delectably sinister Derek Jacobi), the head of the Morris Circle, a watchdog institution that controls an SS-style Morris squadron clad in foreboding black (yet retaining the bells), to regulate the dancing community.
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